By Lisa L. Price
Carson's 14-pointer came from West Virginia's Logan County, one of four in which only bowhunting is allowed. Not surprisingly, this region routinely yields record book bucks.
Here's the joke told in West Virginia: You can shoot a deer, field-dress it and drag it for four hours, and, if you turn around, you can still see the gut pile. The state is known for its steep slopes.
West Virginia bowhunter Carson Birchfield wasn't worried about a tough deer drag on Dec. 1, 2007. In fact, he was hoping for a problem like that. And it seemed likely, as he watched chase after chase on the steep hillside above his treestand.
Just after daylight, Carson was able to see the source of all the noises he'd been hearing in the dark. He glimpsed a big buck chasing a doe.
"I knew things were going to get interesting then," he said. "I was already standing, facing the tree with my release hooked on my string loop to be ready for anything."
He'd put doe urine on his boots for the last 100 yards as he walked in that morning, and as he stood facing the tree, a small 6-pointer walked up from behind him, following the scent trail straight into the chase zone. Ten minutes later, another buck came along the same trail, this one with a deformed rack with four points on one side and a 6-inch-long spike almost angling into its eye on the other.
Carson had passed on both bucks earlier in the season.
"The second buck, with its nose to the ground, followed the 6-pointer right up the hill," he said. "It was so thick in there, all I could do was listen to the deer running around and around."
About 8:30 a.m., Carson spotted a huge buck as it hurried along another trail - not the same path the first two bucks had taken.
"I thought the buck would go right up the hill to the other deer, but it turned toward my stand," he said. "When it did that, I started to shake so badly I thought I would pull off my string loop.
"My knees were shaking. I could not hold them still. I tried to calm down and to not look at the antlers," he added. "My knees, however, never heard what I was saying. They just kept on knocking."
Carson Birchfield of Charleston, W. Va., found himself in the middle of a chase-fest almost as soon as he scaled a tree in the dark on Dec. 1, 2007. By the time dawn broke, he already had a crick in his neck from listening to the action.
As the buck went behind a tree, Carson said a quick prayer and drew his bow. "The buck came all the way to the trail that the other bucks had used and stopped behind two small limbs," he said. "After what seemed like forever, all the while fearing the buck would bolt at any second from my life, I made the decision to shoot between the two branches."
Afterward, the buck bolted back downhill, but stopped about 70 yards away and turned to look back. Carson could see his arrow. It was too far back, but angling forward. The deer then walked out of sight.
Carson called his hunting buddy, Chris Stevens. Every Saturday, he drives the hour and a half to hunt with the Stevens family. The two met through work about three years ago.
Carson, Chris and several family members and friends were hunting in an area near Chris' house in Logan County. Chris had broken his leg that summer and was still on crutches.
Chris didn't want Carson to fire up the ATV out of fear it might spook the wounded buck, so he traveled about a quarter-mile on his crutches to Carson's stand. Soon thereafter, a group of trackers - Junior Hatfield, Steve and Terry Letart, Jarred Hensley and Will Stevens, Chris' son, assembled to begin the search.
"The tracking was easy. The trail was obvious, but it just wouldn't end," Carson said. "At 2 p.m., Junior and I decided to keep going. Junior deserves a lot of credit because he is an excellent tracker. Without him, I might have given up."
The two men tracked the deer until dark, when the sign indicated it had abandoned a four-wheeler trail and headed up a hill into brush. They made the hard decision to back out and return at daylight.
"It was hard to leave that trail, knowing how big a deer it was," Carson said.
"I'm sure there were several prayers said that night, asking for the Lord's help in holding off the forecasted rain so we could find my buck."
Chris' father, Larry, is pastor of Tamcliff Holiness Church, so the Stevens family didn't join the hunt the next morning, a Sunday. Larry Hatfield and Carson took up the trail at daybreak, and they didn't have to look very far.
"The blood trail continued for another 100 yards, and then it stopped at my buck," Carson said. "After a lot of celebrating and picture-taking, we returned to the truck."
They took the buck to Larry's house, in time for everyone to see it before church services.
Hunter: Carson Birchfield
Official Score: 168 4/8"
Composite Score: 187 5/8"
-- Reprinted from the August 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine